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The Duchess of Cambridge might be sweeping up press attention at the Chelsea Flower Show owing to her “Back to Nature” garden, but, elsewhere in London, another high-profile figure with a little-known penchant for landscape design is demonstrating his passion for perennials: Christian Louboutin.
The shoe designer extraordinaire has brought a patch of the garden that he has been cultivating for 30 years in his 13th-century chateau in Champgillon to Mayfair. Specifically, the Scott’s summer terrace, where guests can admire Louboutin in bloom while supping a specially commissioned “Champgillon” cocktail. From the yellow Osteospermum flowers as a nod to the French Sun King, Louis XIV, to the Vida Dura plant pots that symbolise his passion for Portuguese craftsmanship; every element has been handpicked by Louboutin (including the Ruinart on the menu).
“Champgillon is a very romantic vision of the countryside infused with muted pastel tones and a canopy of falling wisterias,” Louboutin tells Vogue. “I revisited the same palette and the same flower arrangements at Scott’s, but twisted them to an expression more relevant for this location.”
Out of all his gardens – Louboutin divides his time between homes in the South of France (Vendée), Portugal (Melides) and Egypt (Luxor) – Champgillon is his favourite because of the history steeped in the grounds. “Plants and trees have been growing there for many decades, even centuries,” he explains. “It finally looks like what I had in mind when I first imagined the place years and years ago.”
Louboutin has always been interested in scrubs, trees, barks, foliage and flowers – “their colour combinations, textures and shapes are a deep source of inspiration” – but it was during a two-year “garden break” that he slipped on his gloves and put his knowledge of flora and fauna to work in the physical plot. “I learned so many things during these exciting years, it was a parenthesis to my work with shoes,” notes Louboutin. “When I design a shoe, I think of what colours look good together, and it usually reflects what looks beautiful in a garden. Now, I find gardening very relaxing.”
On the posy front, Louboutin is a self-professed peonies man. “They are super delicate and gracile flowers,” he opines. “I like the subtle tones and colours, but also the pistils, which can be totally different from one variety to another and create a completely different flower.”
For the not-so-green fingered, Louboutin has some sage advice to impart: Plant small. “People are often willing to pot mature flowers and trees because they have the immediate result of what they had in mind,” he says. “But a plant’s adaptation to its new home is much more complicated than it is for young ones. Wait and let nature do what she does best.”
Nothing makes him sadder than dead greenery. “Forget tropical gardens in Norfolk, and go for solid plants native to the land”. Patience, he believes, is also essential for aspiring landscapers. “Take time to dream up your garden and to consider how the light changes during the day,” he reassures. “It will help you to understand the right flower and colour combinations.”
Of course, he’d be delighted to see Londoners whiling away an afternoon on his terrace, but, really, any small oasis will do. “Gardens teach you to calm down, that we are not the centre of the universe, and that life is beautiful,” he muses. “Keep cool and enjoy your garden this summer.”